With Remembrance Day taking place last month, we found ourselves in a thoughtful mood and, by way of remembering our lost heroes, taking another look at The RAF Benevolent Fund’s Online Book of Remembrance.
One entry in particular leaped out at us. A lovely and touching tribute to Flight Lieutenant William Louis Buchanan Walker, it is also a compelling slice of history, including as it does, an account of his experiences in the Second World War.
Born in 1913, Flight Lieutenant William Louis Buchanan Walker was 99 when he died, which had made him the oldest surviving pilot from the Battle of Britain.
Starting out as a brewer, Walker joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve on 2 September 1938, undergoing pilot training at RAF Kidlington, Oxford, and called up a year later on 1 September 1939, the day World War II broke out.
Posted to No. 616 Squadron RAF at RAF Leconfield in East Yorkshire as a pilot officer on probation, he flew the Supermarine Spitfire.
The tribute page takes the reader through comedic as well as plain hair-raising tales of his derring dos during the war – including the day he entered an air battle whilst still in training, only to be told later he’d gone up with his guns empty, and the time, with a bullet in his right ankle, he was forced to bail out of his Spitfire at 20,000 ft, landing in the English Channel and forced to await rescue whilst clinging to a shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands.
It’s stories like this that really bring home the realities of fighting in the First and Second World Wars, leaving us truly in awe, and so very thankful for what people like Walker did for us.
Happily Walker made it through the war safely, and went back to brewing, before turning to poetry in his retirement. One of his poems, ‘Our Wall’, was inscribed on the Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent alongside the 2,937 names of The Few in July 2010 as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations.
Walker’s story is just one of many incredible tales told in the RAF Benevolent Fund’s book. What a wonderful way of paying tribute to some very special people, and of truly engaging supporters with the cause.
You can take a look at the book and read William Walker’s tribute page in its entirety.